Feds arrest Yitzchok Sofer, a de Blasio supporter, setting up possibility of third grand jury to probe mayor or his backers

By LOUIS FLORES

Updated 22 December 2016 19:59 ⎪ Federal authorities in Brooklyn on Thursday unsealed a criminal complaint, charging Yitzchok Sofer, described to be a prominent member of Brooklyn's Hasidic community, with making false statements when he applied for the food stamps program. The arrest was first noted in a report published by the news Web site, Forward.

Mr. Sofer was cited as a prominent Hasidic community supporter of the 2013 campaign to elect Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York City), according to a report published that year then by Forward.

It is not known why Federal authorities would seek to prominently prosecute the singular arrest of Mr. Sofer for food stamp fraud. Federal authorities have in the past prosecuted social services fraud cases, but those cases usually rise to outrageous levels, like the $2 million fraud case prosecuted by Manhattan Federal prosecutors in 2015. The press office of the U.S. Attorney's Office in Brooklyn declined to answer a request made by Progress Queens for additional information about Mr. Sofer's arrest. Generally, Federal prosecutors do not comment about investigations or prosecutions.

In a report of Mr. Sofer's arrest published by The New York Daily News, Mr. Sofer's connection to Mayor de Blasio was prominently noted in the headline. It has been separately reported that two grand juries are presently sitting in Manhattan, reviewing evidence and testimony in connection with Federal and State investigations of Mayor de Blasio's campaign finance activities.

Because the charges filed against Mr. Sofer were made in a criminal complaint, the statements of which were sworn out to by an agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Brooklyn Federal prosecutors will have 30 days to go before a grand jury to return an indictment against Mr. Sofer to support the charges in the criminal complaint. See 18 U.S. Code § 3161(b). When Federal authorities go before that grand jury, it creates the possibility that a third grand jury will be probing either Mayor de Blasio or his supporters.

In 2013, Mayor de Blasio received a critical political endorsement from Brooklyn's Hasidic community after he pledged to rollback regulations enacted by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R-New York City) that governed a controversial religious rite involving the circumcision of baby boys. The regulations were overturned in 2015 by the de Blasio administration.

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